The tidal waves that had swamped Orissa’s coasts had led to heavy soil erosion, rendering these villages forever vulnerable to floods. But now, thanks to Nirakar, over 5,000 trees of sundry varieties cover the area. This has not only helped restore the local ecosystem but also provided a potential source of income to the community.# People, however, were sceptical in the beginning. They were losing out on grazing ground for cattle. Some were also suspicious of Nirakar’s motives, fearing he was out to grab government land. But once the trees began shooting up and the entire village looked rejuvenated, everybody was won over. Nirakar, for one, never made any bid to corner the fruits of his labour.
So now there are fruit-bearing trees in the forest—jackfruit, mango, guava, coconut—as well as timber-rich ones like teak, casuarina and eucalyptus. Not all of the 7,000 seedlings he’d planted, and looked after as if they were his own offspring, survived the elements. That didn’t deter him, and Nirakar proudly says that as long as he is alive no one from the area would ever harm a tree.